There is a scene in the movie “Wayne’s World,” in which Wayne and Garth saunter into a back-stage party held by rocker Alice Cooper and his band. In the presence of their idol, they fall prostrate on the floor, bleating, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”
That’s how I felt last night attending a fund-raising party hosted by Dottie and John Cox for the benefit of the Virginia Political Action PAC with Newt Gingrich as the star attraction. Gingrich is the monarch of wonks, the overlord of oracles, the paladin of pundits. He propounds a vision of fiscal conservatism, government transformation and creative market solutions to social problems — very much the same philosophy espoused by Bacon’s Rebellion. But he’s been at it longer, and he’s seized a national stage and reached the highest pinnacles of power.

VPAC gave me three or four minutes with the Great One before he addressed the small crowd. (Tyler Whitley writes a solid account of the event in the Times-Dispatch.) My question: What can Virginians do to reform health care?
A lot. Gingrich raised three main points.

First, Virginians can help citizens take responsibility for their own health. Often that’s as simple as making sure they exercise and eat nutritious food. Twelve-year-old children are at risk of diabetes because their diets are so poor and they are so inactive. How do we re-shape the food stamp program, Gringrich asks rhetorically. How do we re-shape urban grocery stores? How do we get five-day-a-week physical education back into the schools?

Second, Virginians should have the right to know the price and quality of doctors, hospitals, drugs and medical devices. “This stuff should be out in the open. We should create a real market in which you have the information and you get to make the decision.” Consumer-driven health care, Gingrich asserts, could drive 20 percent to 40 percent of the costs out of the health care system.

Third, create a simple, online health care system that competes with the current system. “I can insure a family of four in Iowa for $3,300. The same family costs $14,300 in New Jersey,” he says. “It takes three times as much to insure a family of four in Maine as it does in New Hampshire.”

What’s the difference? Politics, and what Gingrich calls “health pork” enacted into legislation at the behest of special interest groups. In Virginia that means mandated health benefits… licensure for medical professionals… and Certificate of Public Need that restricts competition between hospitals and medical facilities — “all sorts of devices designed to protect the entrenched status quo at the expense of the individual citizen.”

You can see the Gingrich interview here on the VCAP website. And you can find out more about health transformation at the Center for Health Transformation.

What’s especially encouraging is that there is considerable common ground between Gingrich and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who wants citizens to take more responsibility for their own health care, and to make health care markets more transparent. The political conditions are right to make a big difference in Virginia.

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7 responses to “Newt Rocks!”

  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden


  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Hey, it worked! I haven’t been able to get on for a week.

    Great for you, Jim.

    I met Gingrich in the early 80s when he was doing ‘military reform’. He does a wonk schtick and then moves on.

    Still, some great ideas worth hearing.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Yo, Bacon,
    Yes you ARE worthy! But why the silly gush about Ginrich? He hasn’t been effective in years and in Congress he was very ethically challenged. No hero of mine.
    Time to wake up and smell the Starbucks, Jim.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m not sure I understand how “licensure for medical professionals” causes health care cost increases… Does he mean that people should be able to practice medicine without licences?

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Medical licensure creates turf wars between professions. Physicians protect theit turf from registered nurses; registered nurses protect their turf from LPNs; optometrists from opticians; pyschiatrists from psychologists; psychologists from counselors, etc. It’s the craft unionization of the medical industry, and it limits the flexibility of organizations like hospitals in running their operations.

    Obviously, you don’t want people practicing medicine they have no competence to practice. But in many areas, RNs can perform some of the simpler, more routine tasks that physicians now do. And so one down the line.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    One of the things that Newt has advocated for is electronic records that would allow any doctor – with your permission – to see ALL of your medical history.

    This would not only yield better quality care and reduce misunderstandings and mistakes but it would be cheaper that paying a legion of office workers whose main job is to keep up with the paper.

    Finally – it would empower the consumer to get to the point where asking questions and getting answers could actually result in seeking a different doctor with a level of confidence that he would get your complete record.

    Newt has good ideas but his political baggage is a deal-breaker for many.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I get it now. Thanks for the explanation.

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